Come Rain or Shine

Extreme Heat & Urban Planning

September 01, 2021 USDA Southwest Climate Hub & DOI Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center Season 2 Episode 11
Come Rain or Shine
Extreme Heat & Urban Planning
Chapters
Come Rain or Shine
Extreme Heat & Urban Planning
Sep 01, 2021 Season 2 Episode 11
USDA Southwest Climate Hub & DOI Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center

In this episode we continue our conversation around the topic of extreme heat. We visit with three experts in urban planning to discuss how we can mitigate public health impacts of extreme heat through improved urban planning and green infrastructure. Dr. Ladd Keith, a researcher at the University of Arizona, Dr. Dave Hondula, a researcher at Arizona State University, and Lisa LaRocque, Sustainability Officer for the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico, share their insights and experiences with us in managing this natural hazard within an urban planning framework. Episode art from Pixabay.


Staying safe in the heat:

National weather service heat safety tips & resources

National Integrated Heat Health Information System

Arizona Department of Health Services’ Extreme Heat Guidelines


Taking action:

University of Arizona Extreme Heat Network

Cities Must Plan for Heat Resilience Now


If you’re enjoying this podcast, please consider rating us and/or leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or Podchaser Thanks!


Follow us on Twitter @RainShinePod
Have a suggestion for a future episode?
Please tell us!

Affiliate links:
DOI Southwest CASC:
https://www.swcasc.arizona.edu/
USDA Southwest Climate Hub:
https://www.climatehubs.usda.gov/hubs/southwest
Sustainable Southwest Beef Project:
https://southwestbeef.org/



Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we continue our conversation around the topic of extreme heat. We visit with three experts in urban planning to discuss how we can mitigate public health impacts of extreme heat through improved urban planning and green infrastructure. Dr. Ladd Keith, a researcher at the University of Arizona, Dr. Dave Hondula, a researcher at Arizona State University, and Lisa LaRocque, Sustainability Officer for the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico, share their insights and experiences with us in managing this natural hazard within an urban planning framework. Episode art from Pixabay.


Staying safe in the heat:

National weather service heat safety tips & resources

National Integrated Heat Health Information System

Arizona Department of Health Services’ Extreme Heat Guidelines


Taking action:

University of Arizona Extreme Heat Network

Cities Must Plan for Heat Resilience Now


If you’re enjoying this podcast, please consider rating us and/or leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or Podchaser Thanks!


Follow us on Twitter @RainShinePod
Have a suggestion for a future episode?
Please tell us!

Affiliate links:
DOI Southwest CASC:
https://www.swcasc.arizona.edu/
USDA Southwest Climate Hub:
https://www.climatehubs.usda.gov/hubs/southwest
Sustainable Southwest Beef Project:
https://southwestbeef.org/



Emile Elias: [00:00:00] Welcome to Come Rain or Shine podcast of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub 

Sarah LeRoy: and the USGS Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center or Southwest CASC. I'm Sarah LeRoy, Science Communications Coordinator for the Southwest CASC. 

Emile Elias: And I'm Emile Elias, Director of the Southwest Climate Hub. Here, we highlight stories to share the most recent advances in climate science, weather and climate adaptation and innovative practices to support resilient landscapes and communities.

Sarah LeRoy: We believe that sharing some of the most innovative, forward thinking, and creative climate science and adaptation will strengthen our collective ability to respond to even the most challenging impacts of climate change in one of the hottest and driest regions of the world.

Last month, we spoke with three experts on the impacts of extreme heat on public health. Continuing with the topic of extreme heat, this month we're focusing on how we can mitigate these public health impacts through improved urban planning and green infrastructure. Ladd Keith is an interdisciplinary researcher at the University of Arizona, working at the intersection of urban planning and climate change to create more sustainable and resilient cities. He has over a decade of experience working with diverse stakeholders to solve complex urban challenges in cities across the U.S. His current research explores urban heat governance, and how cities can increase heat resilience through the mitigation and management of heat.

Lisa LaRocque is the sustainability officer for the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she spearheads efforts to address climate change and resiliency in the city, including mitigating the effects of extreme heat. These efforts include mapping the city's urban heat island, implementing green infrastructure strategies and creating and implementing a climate action plan.

Dave Hondula is a researcher at Arizona State University, where he focuses on the social and health effects of natural and technological hazards with an emphasis on extreme heat and power failures. He works closely with local, regional, and state authorities on the development and implementation of plans and programs to make communities safer and more resilient to extreme events.

Thank you all very much for joining us today. My co-host Emile is actually traveling right now, but she will be back with us next month. 

We know that temperatures are rising and that cities experience heat waves that are dangerous for public health, but an added stressor is the urban heat island effect, which many cities in the Southwest experience.

Ladd, I'd like to start with you. Could you please explain the urban heat island effect and why it's so important for this discussion on mitigating extreme heat in urban areas?

Ladd Keith: [00:03:01] Great. Thank you for having me on Sarah. So the urban heat island effect is the idea that how we plan and design cities, including the materials that we use, like concrete and asphalt and the waste heat from things like vehicles and air conditioning make urban areas hotter than their surrounding agricultural and rural countrysides. And that means that certain parts of the city are hotter than others too. Which leads to a lot of inequities with how heat is distributed spatially across cities. So mitigating urban heat is important. And of course, a lot of cities are starting to look at strategies, but these strategies depend a lot on the climate and the built environment typology of the city.

Some categories include increasing urban greening, looking at reducing waste heat utilizing urban design to increase shade opportunities for pedestrians outside and larger scale land use planning. One thing, that I'd like to mention is most cities are only considering a very small number of tools that they have at their disposal though.

And so, my colleague Sarah Meerow at Arizona State University and I did a survey of United States planners and found that 80% of those planners across the country felt that their communities were already impacted by extreme heat. But that the number one thing the planners were considering using as a strategy was urban forestry. But the least popular strategies were dedicating staff or roles for heat, meaning it has no problem owner in local governments. And also not using regulations related to future development. And so those were the two least popular strategies that we found. 

And so that adds a lot of implications because that means that arguably local municipalities, one of the largest tools that they have at their disposal is land use regulations. And they're not using those to change the form of the built environment for the future to mitigate heat. And I mentioned too that while we call it the urban heat island effect, even smaller and medium-sized communities across the United States should be considering ways to mitigate urban heat. And not just for the public health reasons that you mentioned, but also for infrastructure, economic development, kind of local ecology. There's a lot of other reasons to care about heating communities. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:05:10] Thanks Ladd. Lisa, so you've collaborated with both Dave and Ladd on several heat-related projects. And one of these projects involved mapping the urban heat island in Las Cruces. So could you describe that project a little bit and explain how it has helped you in your planning efforts for the city?

Lisa LaRocque: [00:05:30] Thanks for including me today, Sarah. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Dave and Ladd and lots of other great climate warriors from Arizona and New Mexico. And in mapping the urban heat island in Las Cruces, I wanted to understand the relationship between social vulnerability factors and extreme heat. Urban heat. 

So, Dave introduced me to the NASA Develop Program where students work with researchers on a special summer project defined by a client. So I had a researcher who mentored a whole group of smart and curious students from around the country at my disposal. It was wonderful. So the students drew from several satellite images to create a composite snapshot of the city that described various physical characteristics, such as land surface temperature, impervious surfaces, tree canopy, and other vegetation.

And then the students creatively also mapped five social vulnerability characteristics, including household composition related to seniors and kids under five, economic stability, transportation and housing, health status, and minority status. And with all these layers of information, we were able to look at how urban design might disproportionately impact vulnerable populations and consider appropriate mitigation strategies. So we saw for certain areas, there were a lot of respiratory problems, and started to considering windbreaks. Other areas, we looked where there was a dearth of transportation options and looked at ways that people could travel by foot or bike, and then the households where there was impervious surface all around and how we could mitigate the temperatures inside that manifested from extreme heat events, like urban heat.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:07:32] Thanks, Lisa. Dave, did you have anything to add to that?

David Hondula: [00:07:37] Yeah. Good morning, Sarah and Ladd and Lisa. And Lisa it's particularly a pleasure to be able to chat with you this morning, given what Ladd was telling us about the lack of problem owners in local government. I think when we look at you and what you're doing in Las Cruces, we see a counter-example there, that we do have someone in local government who's really taken on the heat challenge and is trying to push some, some solutions forward.

So I appreciate everything you're doing. You know Sarah we've seen across the country literally dozens of heat island mapping campaigns happen over the past several years in various forms, whether they're heat island mapping campaigns using satellite imagery, like we heard from Lisa, or heat island campaigns that are using ground-based sensors or vehicle based sensors that have been a really interesting way to engage community members in collecting weather and climate data.

And I'm really excited to see how those will continue to expand and help empower folks like Lisa to make policy and program arguments with city council and other regulating bodies, and also really excited to think about the next generation of heat island mapping campaigns. Lisa referred to surface temperature measurements, vehicles are collecting air temperature measurements.

And what we also know as urban climatologists is that what's called the radiant temperature in the environment, which really captures that difference between sun and shade, is also super important to measure. So I think over the next five to ten years, it's going to be really exciting to see how we use different types of technologies to very precisely understand where people, where people can be most comfortable in cities.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:09:14] So building on that a little bit, Dave, now we've mapped the urban heat island, we know extreme heat in these cities, but what are some of the ways that communities can mitigate the impacts of extreme heat on public health? You know, Ladd gave a few examples, but could you give some more?

David Hondula: [00:09:29] Yeah, I think Ladd gave a very nice overview.

I personally think about two big buckets of strategies, one the heat mitigation strategies I would call them. Everything we're doing to cool the city or make it more comfortable. And then we also have a second bucket that I call the heat adaptation strategies. And these are the programs that help people cope with heat when it occurs. Just to give a couple of examples to add to what Ladd said, we've seen the city of Phoenix here in Arizona, implementing a pilot Cool Roads Program over the past a year or two. This is what we, one of those mitigation strategies that can make the city cooler. And the idea is by using a different coating on top of the road material, we're able to reflect more sunlight back into the environment instead of having the ground absorb it, and then slowly re-release it into the city - one of the processes that creates that urban heat island effect that Ladd was talking about. 

We've also seen the city of Phoenix recently approve funding for a Cool Corridors Program, where there'll be adding about 200 trees to each of nine miles at city streets each year in perpetuity, moving forward. Trees operate as a good cooling strategy for a number of different mechanisms, but we can't forget about those heat adaptation strategies either, those programs that can help people cope with heat. 

And sometimes these are very heat focused programs, and sometimes they're not. For example, here in the Phoenix area, we've seen a renewed conversation around cooling centers. How to optimize their locations, how to ensure that every cooling center has the resources it needs to be effective. A cooling center, for those who might not be aware is intended to be a public air conditioned space where someone can go during the day if they don't otherwise have access to a comfortable indoor environment. But I think we also need to be thinking about some of our upstream strategies as well that maybe aren't particularly heat focused, for example, what is the cost of electricity in our cities? That's a huge determinant of underlying risk and vulnerability to heat. I think there are some of these bigger, broader policy questions that we're all battling with that turn out to be really important for the public health heat connection. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:11:37] Lisa, what about for Las Cruces? Could you give us some examples of what you all are doing over there?

Lisa LaRocque: [00:11:43] We have been dabbling in a lot of different projects, many of which Dave just mentioned. We have a coating that we're putting on to reflect the sun's heat on our bike lanes, we have been looking more into pervious pavement and other coatings to deal with our Plaza. And one of the things that's really rung true for me, and this is more of an adaptation strategy that I hope will turn into a mitigation strategy, is that the pandemic really illustrated the challenges with public cooling stations. Or congregating in any public space. And I did a small project where I installed a mini split in the main living room of a low income house. And then we added solar panels to offset the additional costs. 

So we in essence created a cooling station in someone's home. And it got me thinking about the energy efficiency programs and how they don't really address thermal comfort or resiliency. And so I confirmed that with a gap analysis of the weatherization service providers in our area and did see that there are lots of gaps and lots of ways that we are not addressing the vulnerable populations that we need to be considerate of. And so my goal in a really upstream sense is to reframe the way that these programs, whether they're weatherization or energy efficiency, that they start addressing those concerns. They're in there and they could really re-focus their efforts. And if that doesn't work, I'm hoping to develop a parallel operation that does.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:13:34] That's great, Lisa, and I appreciate you bringing up the topic of vulnerable populations, which we discussed a lot last month in our episode on public health. And some of our later questions today we'll address that as well. So going over to you Ladd, could you give some examples for the city of Tucson?

Ladd Keith: [00:13:53] Sure. And I love the examples that both Dave and Lisa gave. I would say similar to Dave, I wanted to just reiterate the importance of kind of those heat mitigation strategies for reducing the contribution of urban heat. And then also what I call heat management, but same as Dave's heat adaptation category. And just the idea that cities need to plan for and respond to you know, rising heat risk as well. And so what we've seen again, from a different research that I've done looking at interviews across the country of people dealing with heat and doing plan analysis is that there's a lot of silos between these two areas of heat mitigation and heat management.

And that's why I'm really interested in that idea of heat governance. And how cities are creating new roles, processes, and institutions, and how those are changing very quickly to address, kind of, growing heat risk, and as that awareness grows, we're seeing more, more attention to it too.

So I would say as far as Tucson's examples, our regional government, the Pima Association of Governments has hosted one of the longest examples that I can find in the country of an urban heat island map. And so that was posted in the early 2010's based off a U of A student Eve Halper’s dissertation work from 2008.

And so that's been publicly accessible for quite a while. And so that's really become a resource that a lot of non-profits and local governments have used. And because it's regional, it doesn't just cover the city of Tucson, it covers unincorporated areas too. And so there's been a lot of kind of creative uses from that looking at heat.

I would say though that Tucson, like many cities across the United States has really been focused on that urban greening category of heat mitigation. And so, you know, we've done some really positive things. The mayor and council of Tucson, passed the Green Stormwater Infrastructure fee in 2020 to help build and maintain more green infrastructure across the city.

And in 2018, our voters passed a $225 million parks and connections bond that’s specifically targeting those areas that need more of that vegetation to help cool the city, and looking at kind of the vulnerability aspects of that too. We're also doing a cool paving pilot project, just like Phoenix, like Dave mentioned. And so we have a couple of those coming up in the fall, which will be interesting to see the results and how it's different and similar to what Phoenix has done, and what's happened in Los Angeles. 

But what I would really like to see the Tucson kind of region focus on more in the future is those heat management strategies and looking at, again, kind addressing heat as both the chronic heat stress risk, and then also those extreme heat events and building off of what Dave said, a lot of the current heat management strategies are really focused on open cooling centers, like during the heat wave. But we have a lot of folks that have unsafe housing, unsafe work conditions, unsafe schooling conditions for nine months out of the year, sometimes in the Southwest. And so I would really like to see heat management, not just be focused on those extreme heat waves that we have, but also just the chronically hot summers that we have. Especially as those increase in the future. 

David Hondula: [00:16:58] And this governance gap that Ladd is speaking to, and this idea of silos, I don't think this is just a talking point. I think we see this, I would love to hear Lisa's comments on this as well, but at least as an academic looking at what's happening in city government, I think we've seen a lot of examples of this. Whether it's we've convened meetings to talk heat with regional stakeholders, and emergency managers have stood up and openly asked and shared their uncertainty about whether it was even appropriate for them to be at this meeting in the first place. Or with another city government, the deputy city manager hand-picked some people to work on heat planning, and very few of them had even met each other before. Or in one other case, we asked as part of a heat project with local government, should we be thinking about what's in the hazard mitigation plan, the federally required hazard mitigation plan related to heat. “No, that that's somebody else's job.” I think we're continuing to see some of these barriers, literally tangibly impede progress and of particular concern is that when it comes to the hazard mitigation plan, this is an opportunity to access federal resources, or it can be an opportunity to access federal resources. And we're just not very well organized to try to access those resources right now. Lisa, is this something you see day in and day out as well as a practitioner?

Lisa LaRocque: [00:18:22] I think you've been spying on me, Dave. There, that, that certainly that story is certainly resonates with me here that the hazard mitigation plans here are very upstream strategies. And heat is just taken as a given. They don't really understand how it is a chronic and extreme event, acute event. And but also, I think that to Ladd's point, we're at a stage right now where we really need to have explicit design standards and metrics to be able to institute these changes. To have these codified so it is the practice that everyone uses and particularly in vulnerable areas. And, I have been searching for that, and I'm really happy to know that I can borrow what Tucson just did, but I feel like, we aren't on the same page here and it has a lot to do with the fact that extreme heat, urban heat, is so chronic. It's so pervasive. It's so normal air quotes and that we need to find a way to make it be an issue that everyone realizes is escalating. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:19:57] Just expanding on this, Dave, you're mentioning how in lots of communities, people aren't necessarily, in different departments, aren't necessarily working together on this issue. But I have been to, and I know that these meetings are happening in Arizona around extreme heat, connecting researchers, the National Weather Service, emergency managers and the Public Health Department. So could you describe these efforts a little bit? Are they working, are they not working? And if you have advice for other communities that are thinking about doing something similar.

David Hondula: [00:20:30] Yeah. Thanks, Sarah.

We have been really fortunate to get the ball rolling on a regional conversation around heat that we've called the Arizona Heat Resilience working group, which was really catalyzed because of COVID. I remember being on the phone with the local government official early last spring in the early, in early stages of figuring out how we were going to both be prepared for summer heat and manage the complications that Lisa introduced related to COVID. And that particular question was about public ramadas. These provide shade in outdoor spaces, and the question was, should we close the ramadas, or leave them open? They provide shade. So that's good for when it gets hot, but they're also a point of congregation and that's bad because of COVID.

So that was just a very small, but tangible, practical trade off that we had to think through. And it quickly became apparent that there were going to be hundreds, if not thousands of similar questions to ask about cooling centers and COVID. About buses and light rail and COVID, and who’s, we're already struggling to know who's in charge of heat response in the first place, now, what if that person is reassigned to work on COVID? So it quickly became apparent that there was a need to, we needed to share between local government agencies, between the health departments, between the universities, because we were going to be really strapped for capacity to understand how to battle these, how to manage these trade-offs.

So several of our partners in local government and the university here helped stand up, what at the time was a weekly conference call. And after a few of those, which seemed to be relatively productive, we asked ourselves, why haven't we been doing this all along? It seems like it would be quite useful to touch base and talk about what we're doing, what we're learning for managing extreme heat. So we've continued that working group ever since. We've alternated the frequency of meetings between weekly, bi-weekly, monthly to try to fit into folks' schedules. 

From some, we had an external evaluator talk to several of the perhaps 75 to a hundred folks who have been attending these calls on and off last winter. And there was a lot of positive feedback to your question of, is it working? I think it's hard to measure tangibly exactly how, but we've certainly, I think we certainly turned the corner there where we see now new cooling centers coming online with different resources than we know would have happened in the absence of this, ah this working group.

To your question about advice. I think if another group of municipalities is interested to start something like this, remembering that heat is mostly no one's priority is unfortunately a good reality. We, we are always trying to think about how to align the conversation with other existing priorities and initiatives, trying to articulate what the value add would be to participation. I was very surprised to hear one of the main takeaways from the evaluation we did last winter, which was, it was like an extra hour long phone call that folks had to attend. It just didn't sound very appealing, but many of them said, we wish we could do this more often - reflect on the conversation we're having so we can ensure that future conversations are better. So maybe more frequent, less formal evaluation would be helpful. And then the clearest data point from our evaluation is that our forecaster from the local weather service who joins us for the start of every call and provides a recap in a look at the forecast was absolutely the superstar of every call. Folks are coming to these calls to hear the weather forecast, and here's some of the extra insights that come directly out of the forecaster's mouth, contextualizing the heat we've had and the heat we expect moving forward. So any opportunity to partner with a weather forecaster, or at least here seems to have helped.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:24:25] Yeah, I can see how that piece would be key. And really everyone involved there, emergency managers, public health experts, weather service, and it is funny when you say, why weren't we doing this before? It's one of those things that happens and all of a sudden you're like this is, this is great. So I'm happy to hear that it's still moving forward. Switching gears just slightly. Lisa, I wanted to ask you if you could share your favorite green infrastructure project that you have helped implement in Las Cruces.

Lisa LaRocque: [00:24:55] Well, I'm not sure I'd call it my favorite green infrastructure project, but it certainly was a learning lesson. I borrowed in air quotes, Phoenix's brilliant strategy of creating cool corridors, which are native trees landscape, native tree landscaped areas that are bumped out into the street with chicanes is another way of phrasing it. And they harvest stormwater. And one of the advantages of being a smaller city is that you're a little bit more nimble and you can get things done.

So I knew about Phoenix's idea, but I took it and thought I would run with it. And unfortunately, although it's completed, it was not the success that I'd hoped for. The gas lines that paralleled the corridor were not installed as planned. We thought they were going to be running closer to the curb and they did not.

And the lines intruded into the landscape area and public works was unwilling to explore the root barriers or other options. So the majority of the chicanes don't even have trees. So we weren't really able to provide the cool corridor that we were hoping for. And one of the things that's a lesson from this: in order for us to address heat mitigation in order for it to be successful, everybody has to be willing to solve those problems. Because there's a lot of old infrastructure, there's a lot of old urban design, that's just not working and will not be helpful for the future. And so finding strategies that become best practices is super important to me because I have to solve all the problems in introducing these new innovations, these new technologies, because there's a traditional way of thinking that goes on in these silos and we are just stirring the pot here. And so again, I really lean on the technicians, the policymakers, and all of you to help me with the implementation side. 

David Hondula: [00:27:18] Yeah, Lisa, it's encouraging to hear that. And I think that the point that you're making here also highlights what a problem the governance gap is, and the lack of a problem owner that Ladd so nicely articulated earlier. As we all know, city infrastructure ages, and breaks, and eventually needs repaired. Eventually we're going to dig up the road that I'm looking out at my office window right now and replace the pipes, replace the gas lines and maybe move them a foot to the left or a foot to the right. If we can move them a foot to the left or to the right, might make all the difference in the world from a urban forestry perspective.

But if your voice or the voice of the heat problem owner is not in the room, which is very likely going to be the case because we don't have problem owners, no, one's going to be able to speak up for that no, or low cost change that could make a huge difference. So we need, we need to keep building our army of Lisa's out there who are able to get their voice in that conversation for what we think can be relatively low or even no cost strategies that can be hugely impactful. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:28:26] Yeah. Speaking of this army of Lisa's, I recently saw an interview with the first chief, the title is Chief Heat Officer in Greece. So someone to handle you know, all of the city, very specifically related to just heat, that's her whole job. And so it seems like maybe some cities are making this topic a priority. And so that does give me some hope that eventually things will start changing here. This leads to my next question.

‘Cause we like to end our episodes on a hopeful note. And so, I want to ask each of you, what gives you hope for the future when you're thinking about this topic? And obviously there are a lot of barriers to implementing change. So I mean, my hope comes from all of you in the work that you're doing and, especially Lisa at the city level, trying to really make changes happen. So Lisa, I'll start with you then since they just mentioned your name. What gives you hope for the future? 

Lisa LaRocque: [00:29:24] Even though I slipped back to the depressing narrative in my last response, I need to realize the strategies that we are suggesting are transformative in terms of equity, quality of life, and a healthier planet. I felt alone when I started working in sustainability eight years ago, but I've met amazing people that are committed to implementing important changes. And I'm happy to be a part of it. So, knowing that you're out there and knowing that we're all working on it is a synergy that I know will have great rewards for all of us. So thanks for having me. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:30:03] Ladd, what gives you hope? 

Ladd Keith: [00:30:06] Yeah. So I'm glad you mentioned the world's first chief heat officers. And so Athens, Greece has one and one's been appointed for Miami Dade County, and it'll be interesting to see what they can do. I would say though, I would look more to the city of Phoenix's Office of Heat Response and Mitigation.

Because that's based on internal city funding, they've actually included it as part of their budget. Whereas in comparison, the chief heat officers are foundation funded temporary positions. And what we saw previously with the Rockefeller's 100 Resilient Cities Program is that after that program and the funding ended, the majority of those positions were eliminated or repurposed.

And so I think Phoenix is really the example that we should look to since they've really put their money where their mouth is, as you would say. And just for some context, so we have two chief heat officers in the world now, one that's being hired for the city of Phoenix. There's 20,000 municipalities incorporated cities and towns in the United States alone.

So three positions out of, three positions in the world, out of 20,000 you know, locations in the United States and so, you know, not all of those cities and towns need a chief heat officer, but if you compare this to flood risk, most of those locations have flood plain management departments or a flood official.

And so the infrastructure to deal with heat, the heat governances Dave and I have been talking about, and Lisa's been adding to it's just sorely behind. So I would say that's not my area of hope. I know that's a negative take on it. My area of hope is we did a literature view of heat planning papers and found that 60% of the research has been done in the last five years.

And if you look at the graph every year, there's just more papers coming out, more research that's being done. I know Dave and I are contacted constantly by more talented students interested in this area going forward in the future. So I think there's going to be a lot more research in this area that will help inform cities, which is a good thing.

And then I think you know, the Pacific Northwest heat wave that occurred in July, 2021 was a huge wake up call for a lot of communities that didn't realize that heat was actually a current problem and not something that was going to be a future problem. And you know, my area of hope is that the cities actually have a lot of regulatory power, like I mentioned earlier. We have land use regulations and zoning codes that we use to regulate flood risk and wildfire risk and all types of other risks. And so we have the tools in place, we just need to utilize the tools that we have you know, from an urban planning perspective that are already there.

And so I think there's a lot of things that cities can start to do right now to address heat.

Lisa LaRocque: [00:32:49] Just one quick thing I want to add on to a Ladd's hopeful tracking of this issue is that, things like ADA Compliance and other things and floods, like you said, are becoming the norm or have been, are the norm.

And that will be a metric for us. We have two heat officers, but how will things change? Looking at the research, looking at the positions, looking at the design standards, I'm hopeful that this will all accelerate. So I just wanted to build on your enthusiasm.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:33:24] Thanks Lisa. And I'm glad Ladd mentioned that heat wave in the Northwest as well.

Cause I'm guessing, in the future, those cities are going to be looking to the Southwest, Arizona, New Mexico cities that have been doing this work for a while already for ideas. Dave, lastly, what gives you hope? 

David Hondula: [00:33:44] Yeah. I'd like to reiterate some of the messages we've heard from Ladd and Lisa. In particular Ladd, some language you used at the top of the podcast and again most recently, that we're really not using the tools in our toolbox and we can make the case I think that we're even just like learning what tools are there and how to use them. And to contextualize that state of infancy from a public health perspective, humans have shown at least in developed countries, have shown an amazing ability to adapt to climate related hazards over the past several decades. In the United States, fewer people died from heat in the 2010s, than did in the 2000s, than did in the 90s, than did in the eighties. We are on and have been on a very positive trajectory. And the question is, can we maintain that momentum as we encounter intersecting challenges of warming, aging, infrastructure, aging people, and other factors that are going to make it harder to keep up with these climate related challenges, including extreme heat. I think what gives me hope is that we're just beginning to learn how to use the tools in our toolbox. We still have a lot of opportunity, a lot of weapons at our disposal to try to keep up that momentum as we move forward. It's not as though all of our solutions are exhausted and it's a hopeless situation.

In fact, it feels like exactly the opposite and we have a big challenge. We've hardly deployed any of our tools yet to try to tackle that challenge. So I'm very encouraged and optimistic about where  we can go. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:35:16] Thank you all very much for those hopeful comments. And I just wanted to give you one last opportunity, if there's any last thoughts that you'd like to share before we say goodbye.

Ladd Keith: [00:35:27] Yeah, I'll start off Sarah. I would just say that heat governance, like we've been talking about heat planning is very much a niche of climate planning still. Climate planning is a niche of planning which is a niche of local governance all altogether. And so justifiably many of us that work in climate planning, specifically more of the heat world are very focused on equity and vulnerable populations and marginalized communities.

I think one thing that we have to figure out how to change the framing of is a lot of times when we speak about heat, we frame it in such a way that it only sounds like it's an issue for vulnerable or marginalized populations. And I think that will be a challenge going forward as we try to broaden heat awareness and get more people involved in heat planning and the idea that cities should be planning for heat.

We have to continue the focus on equity in that vulnerability. But also bridge it to, you know, the people that have the air conditioning and don't feel the heat waves in the same way. And so I think the messaging around heat is something we really need to work on and you know, examples that I give off in or during the heat wave, can, the person that can afford a house with air conditioning and has a good job, do they have to have their kids not go to the playground at the normal time, or do they have to like, not walk their dog because it's too hot and shift that activity? Are they, are they prevented from doing outdoor activities themselves? And so I think we have to figure out that tricky balance of continuing to focus and making sure that we're helping the most vulnerable communities, but also broadening the language so we're not specifically just focused on vulnerability. Because heat really does affect the entire community. And if we want to address it like an urban planning issue, we're going to have to get everybody involved and interested in the topic.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:37:12] Lisa, Dave, anything you'd like to say before we adjourn?

Lisa LaRocque: [00:37:16] I'd like to thank you again for getting the opportunity to visit with everybody, and I really think that there is synergy when we all get together and I hope that we get more opportunities to do it. I think that there, it takes a village. There's a lot of work to do, but I know that there's some good heads at the table, so thank you again.

David Hondula: [00:37:39] And my last word will just be encouraging all the listeners to stay cool and stay safe and look for ways to get involved in this conversation, as hopefully we all heard today, there's a lot of space and a lot of work to do. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:37:53] Yeah. Thanks, Dave. And to that point, we will add some links into the description of this podcast.

So anything you would like to share with everyone we can put  that there. Thank you all very much for talking with us today. It was a great conversation, I appreciate it. 

David Hondula: [00:38:07] Thanks Sarah.

Ladd Keith: [00:38:09] Thanks, Sarah.

Emile Elias: [00:38:11] Thanks for listening to come. Rain or shine podcast of the USDA Southwest climate hub and the USGS Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center.

And if you liked this podcast, don't forget to rate or review it and subscribe the more great episodes. If you want more information, have any questions for the speakers or we'd like to offer. Please reach out to us via our website.